Tag: Ania Reynolds

Arena Theatre Presents TRAPPER

Captivating for all ages

By Leeor Adar

Arena Theatre has given consistently challenging and engaging works of theatre aimed at their 5 to 25 year-old market since their inception in 1966. The theatre company has constantly kept the issues of interest to youth in the present day in their focus, but what is particularly fantastic about Arena is that the appeal of their work goes beyond the specific age groups for whom they create, appeasing teenagers and their parents alike – or just charming your average theatre-goer.

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Their latest creation, Trapper, is a futuristic and visually stunning set created from giant sculptural machines that light up and engage with the performers and their bodies. Designed by co-creator Jolyon James, with sound design and composition by Ania Reynolds and lighting design by Paul Lim (Additive), the stage ebbs and flows with the performers in an extraordinary and exhilarating manner.

From a selection of writings, the performers deliver a series of stories and segments that concern everything from our engagement with technology to the vastness of our capabilities and failings. Under the direction of co-creator of Christian Leavesley, the integration of the ‘trapping’ surrounds integrates so well with the profound topics discussed, and it is the human capacity to continue to exist (despite what we create that can destroy and expand our existence) that forms the underlying theme to Trapper.

Cleverly, the production appeals to its younger audiences as it takes us into the digital everyday life of a teenager – but the wit and whimsy of youth isn’t so far from adult engagement, as we are all reminded of our digital addictions. Once the younger members in the audience are enthralled, the piece continues to ascend to loftier places, with segment by segment asking larger and larger questions, ultimately reaffirming every individual’s place in the chaos of the world around. Thus Trapper artfully touches on an expansive set of topics with humour and poignancy.

Trapper is a thoroughly ambitious project, but Arena and their capable performers (Rachel Perks, Hamish Irvine, Daniel Schlusser and Naomi Rukavina) deliver with total vitality. The season was short, but hopefully this will not be its only one, so when it returns, take along anyone and everyone – Trapper is a journey of delight.

Trapper was performed at the Melbourne Arts Centre from 3-5 August, 2017. For further information about this production and company, visit: http://www.arenatheatre.com.au/

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Circus Oz Presents MODEL CITIZENS

Brilliantly breathtaking

By Joana Simmons

In their newest show Model Citizens, the Circus Oz crew has made a masterpiece that blows our socks off and tickles our feet as the same time. Featuring a highly energetic all-Australian cast, and an absolutely fantastic live band, we are taken on a journey to explore the myths of modern Australia, what it means to fit in; to be a model citizen. The range of circus acts is immense, all skillfully choreographed and intertwining with the blue set and giant everyday objects, with a delightful dash of the company’s trademark Aussie charm.

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The Circus Oz Big Top on Birrarung Marr buzzes as the audience of all ages piles in to the well-lit, well structured, technical canvas wonderland. The blue set designed by Michael Baxter, with a giant pair of scissors side stage, provides a familiar yet unrecognizable backdrop for the world we are about to enter.  We are asked to wonder what makes us us, to open our eyes and mind, as the models come to life: flipping over and around each other to the punchy drums. There’s a real sense of play throughout the show, contrasted with the element of danger in the acts and the deeper questions we are searching for answers to. We crane our necks gasping as the performers hang and spin high above us on various circus apparatus, each with a wonderful twist – a giant pair of Y-Fronts, a huge safety pin, trapeze and more. From the contortion to hula hoop, spring sequences, adagio, fire, juggling, balancing to rollerskating, each act seamlessly glides into the next, with no divide between storytelling and ‘tricks.’ This show is something greater than people making shapes to music.

I could rave for days about the band. The original music by musical director Ania Reynolds had me tapping my feet and at the edge of my seat. Reynolds was joined by energetic musical ensemble – Michelle John, the multi-talented and highly hilarious Matt Wilson, Alex Wiebel Wiebel and Jeremy Hopkins (whose new rendition of “Waltzing Matilda” was a standout). From synth to drums to guitar, bass saxophone and violin, the soundtrack united the show.

Moreover, the athletic performers ought to be properly chuffed at how they all kicked some serious ass, and clearly have trained for a very long time to be the top of their game. All performers’ characterization was natural and they don’t only make it look easy: they make it look fun.  Individual acts that had the audience going berserk included the “Peg Acrobatics” featuring Jake Silvestro, Lachlan Sukro, Steph Mouat, Luke Ha and Mitch Jones – a delightfully playful, well-choreographed and comic sequence. Meanwhile, Jarred Dewey’s contortion irons were graceful and stunning, and Freyja Edney is a multifaceted performerand incredibly strong; she also wears an apron like a boss.  It was the penultimate piece however – Alex Wiebel Wiebel on the slack ropes – that absolutely tore the top down.

It’s hard to believe it’s Artistic Director/ Concept creator Rob Tannion’s first show. Everything is so well put together, with the right combination of comedy and something to think about. He has something wonderful to share, and I am excited to see what he will bring next. Shows of this magnitude take an army of creatives to bring to life – Laurel Frank’s costume design was both fitting with the theme and all the individuals’ bodies.  Lighting by Sian James-Holland gave a real sense of originality and ingenuity, especially paired with Ryan Taplin’s rigging design (never before have I seen a giant pair of undies from which one can suspend themselves). It gives me so much inspiration and pride to see what is capable when such creatives work together on something with such overt dedication.

If you still think circus is just tightropes, jaded bearded ladies, and seedy ringmasters, you couldn’t be more wrong. Circus Oz has created its own ballsy brand, and has bought us a terrific show in Model Citizens. Go with your kids, your partner, your friends: it’s worth every penny, and will get your heart racing and a smile on your face.

Model Citizens – Circus Oz Big Top premiere in Melbourne 

Season 20 June – 16 July 2017

Duration 2 hours (including 20 minute interval)

Venue Circus Oz Big Top

Location Birrarung Marr, Melbourne (between Federation Square and Batman Avenue)

Tickets $30 – $95 (plus booking fees)

Bookings ticketek.com.au

Image by Rob Blackburn

REVIEW: Circus Oz Presents BUT WAIT… THERE’S MORE

Fun but familiar

By Myron My

Circus Oz returns to Melbourne with But Wait…There’s More, fusing circus acts with consumerism and “infobesity”; the idea that everything is being commodified and the world is moving at faster speeds than before.

But Wait... There's More

The opening act of Lilikoi Kaos and her hoops was amazing. With hoop acts becoming a dime-a-dozen in recent circus productions, Kaos brought so much energy and fun to the routine it was impossible not to get swept up by the momentum. The program definitely does not lie when it compares her as a “mixture of Jessica Rabbit, Lucille Ball and Tank Girl”. Kaos has a unique talent that is great to watch on stage.

Similarly the enchanting balletic unicycle act by Kyle Raftery and April Dawson was mesmerising and the accompanying music created an almost whimsical environment. In fact, all the music, led by Ben Hendry and Ania Reynolds, was the one consistently superb factor throughout the show. Each act’s musical soundtrack was perfectly suited to build the mood and the suspense, and change the tone as needed.

Towards the end of last year, I saw Circus Oz’s Close to the Bone. Perhaps it was the more intimate and intense setting of the Melba Spiegeltent that allowed the acts to draw you in, but under the Big Top tent, many of the acts felt lacklustre and uninspiring. There were minimal wow moments and even though circus can be more than just “wow”, when you’re performing in this type of environment, on this type of stage, there needs to be plenty of dramatic climax and intensity.

This was more noticed in the second half of the shown which lacked the variety and the suspense needed to maintain my interest. The performers, such as the consistently amazing Sharon Gruenert, are clearly talented and accomplished in their fields, but as an audience member, there are only so many familiar flips and jumps that a show can have before it stops being interesting.

As a theme, the exploration of consumerism and information-overloading didn’t seem to work within the confines of circus, and despite Candy Bower‘s great voice, the singing numbers were out of place and broke the momentum of the acts. However, the set-ups for the bigger acts were great to watch as the whole ensemble playfully worked together to prepare the stage.

There is no denying that there are a number of highly skilled performers within the company and Circus Oz knows how to put on a good show: I’ve seen them do it before, numerous times. Unfortunately, But Wait…There’s More is not one of their better showings. For all the glitz and sparkle, I didn’t find much substance within the acts – which I guess is where you could argue society is trending with our obsessions on “infobeity” and consumerism.

Venue: Circus Oz Big Top, Birrarung Marr, Melbourne (between Federation Square and Batman Avenue).
Season: Until 12 July | Wed- Sat 7:30pm, Sat 1.30pm, Sun 3pm
Tickets: $22 – $95 (plus booking fees)
Bookings: ticketmaster.com.au or 136 100

Image by Rob Blackburn

REVIEW: Circus Oz Presents CLOSE TO THE BONE

Wit, whimsy and wonder

By Myron My

When I go to the circus I often can’t help feeling like a child again as I watch in awe, wonderment and envy at the acts on display. Fortunately for me, these feelings continue to be felt at the Melba Spiegeltent with the current show from Circus Oz, Close To The Bone.

Circus Oz_Close to the Bone_Credit – Rob Blackburn_Caption – Lilikoi Kaos and Circus Oz band

The first thing you notice upon entering is the surprising size of the Spiegeltent. It’s a small and intimate space, which works well from an audience member perspective because no matter where you sit, you can more or less hear the heavy breathing of the performers, see the sweat dripping down their faces, and really see the strength and flexibility on display. These are highly talented professionals who are pushing themselves to their limits, and possibly even further.

I particularly enjoyed Lilikoi Kaos and Dale Woodbrige-Brown’s mischievous interactions during the hoop act, and Olivia Porter’s hacky-sack segment had everyone’s eyes glued on her from beginning to end.

The highlight of the night however belongs to Matt Wilson and his extremely high risk-balancing act, about which the less said is better so as to not ruin the surprise. What I will say though, is the tent was filled with tense excitement as Wilson went about performing this and the collective sigh of relief and cheers from the crowd upon completion was resounding.

There is a strong emphasis on music throughout Close To The Bone, which is led by the skillful Ania Reynolds and Ben Hendry. However, the cast also joins in throughout the night on a variety of instruments including guitars, piano and trumpets and even squeeze toys. The impressive “unconventional” drumming performance by Hendry further enhances the relationship between the two art forms.

Circus Oz’s Close To The Bone is an evening of good old-fashioned acts with just a touch of edginess and cheek that will most certainly entertain even the harshest circus show critics.

Venue: The Melba Spiegeltent, 35 Johnston St, Collingwood

Season: Until 21 December| Thurs-Fri 8pm, Sat 5:30 and 9:30pm, Sun 5.30pm

Tickets: $45 Full | $40 Conc

Bookings: ticketmaster.com.au or 136 100

REVIEW: Circus Oz – FROM THE GROUND UP

Nostalgia, comedy, spectacle and surprise: the perfect circus experience

By Kim Edwards

The Circus Oz Big Top at Birrarung Marr by the Yarra in the heart of Melbourne was simply athrill last night with a noisy excited eclectic crowd. It’s been a long time since I attended a circus, and as an adult my only experience had been vague disappointment at a rather dirty, tired, jaded show. This time and for this company however, the atmosphere was of joyous excitement and anticipation, and I honestly felt as revved up as the kids behind me who could scarcely sit still…

From the Ground Up did not disappoint: after plenty of theatre and performance art viewing in my career, I was rapturous to be genuinely amazed, surprised and delighted by this show. I loved the happy front-of-house folk, the great seating design to ensure there isn’t a bad seat in the house, the fantastic use of space and non-stop performance action, and the energised, hilarious, charming and extraordinarily multi-talented cast.

They tumbled and flipped and clowned and sang and swung and joked and juggled: I caught my breath as Mason West teetered precariously atop the Chinese pole, was mesmerised by Luke Taylor’s witty and dexterous video-game inspired block juggling, and laughed spontaneously at Flip Kammerer’s aerobic antics. It’s a wonderful idea to develop the show’s characters so thoroughly and make the audience look forward to the reappearance of their favourites, including Jeremy Davies’ slapstick magic acts and dainty Stevee Mills’ death-defying trapeze work. (N.B. I was surprised to find the program such good value, and the performer collector cards are an inspired idea!)

Special mention must go to the utterly spectacular band: Bec Matthews’ drumming was a highlight, MD Carl Polke was extraordinary on every instrument he picked up, and Ania Reynolds at the piano was both completely charismatic and remarkably skilled.

However, well-deserved crowd favourite was MC Ghenoa Gela, whose glorious stage presence and natural charm were simply palpable. The show’s loose theme of searching for the ultimate Australian song is both clumsy and unsuccessful: indeed, the violence and bitterness of some satirical lyrics seemed unpleasantly incongruous in what is otherwise such a family-oriented and jubilant celebration of our indigenous heritage, multiculturalism and shared artistic culture. However, the lovely ‘fruit salad’ metaphor that spoke so meaningfully and beautifully about cultural identity and difference (and related so poignantly to the real sense of family within this company, and the eclectic nature of the show itself) was superb, and with Ghenoa’s warmth and easy empathy, I hope it is this narrative theme that will be developed to cement this dynamic and diverse production.

With their ‘fruit salad’ audience also of families, elders, politicians, outrageously-costumed students and couples on dates, perhaps the greatest praise to offer From the Ground Up was the vigorous cheering and clapping, and the infectious, uncontrollable laughter of little kids throughout. It’s an earthy, jokey, raw, thrilling, touching, and triumphantly Australian show – and everything I thought circuses had forgotten how to be. Loved it!

Melbourne dates: June 20, 2012 to July 15, 2012

Click HERE for tickets and show information